Monday, February 20, 2006

What to do with Venezuela


Procrastination has a strange way to make things happen or become outdated. When a couple of weeks ago I started this series of posts, I had a conclusion in mind. But I had to go to Caracas for a few days and postponed writing it up. Now I realize that I have no pertinent conclusion. This break in Caracas allowed me to talk a lot, top perceive a lot and to realize that the situation I described in the previous post is shifting fast enough that soon I will be able to add to it a lot.

The review of the situation I gave is still valid, of course, as we are still living in the shadow of December 4 75% abstention. But the recent developments, from Chavez early and indecent electoral start to the opposition apparent inability to cash on the December sort of victory are making at this date any logical strategy a moot point. Thus, while I sort out recent information, I will write in lieu of a conclusion a summary of the proposal I wrote. The reader should be advised that at no point I pretended or even hoped that it would have an effect. The proposal summarized below depends on logic and political will. These are in very short supply in Venezuela.

The premises

The proposal was based on two shortcomings of the opposition used by chavista propaganda: no program and no candidate. My thesis is that abstention or not, it is a duty, a requirement for credibility for the opposition to come up with a program and a candidate for December 2006. Only a leader, followed by an opposition alliance could mount a meaningful challenge and use effectively the abstention weapon as Toledo did it in Peru. Otherwise it is only hot air, a vacuous position used by people that are very ware that their leadership is skimpy and only promoting abstention without a plan B can allow them to look more significant than what they really are.

The program

To elaborate a common program I thought that an internal opposition election, limited perhaps to those who signed for the Recall Election, could be organized by Sumate in a couple of weeks. A brief campaign would be enough as the “electoral system would ensure that all the groups that have some following will be granted one of the 20 to 40 seats maximum.

The task would be simple: write a program fit for a transition government of no more than 3 years. The objective would be to restore some order and control in the monies and institutions of the state. Only them it would be meaningful to proceed for a real election. I even thought that the opposition should promise to keep some of the Chavez programs as a way to demonstrate that no wholesale purge of chavistas would take place.

The commission to draft a program could be elected by mid March at the latest and its work would be concluded by May 31. Even if Chavez campaigns heavily, the country attention would be focused on such a commission, gaining lots of free promotion.

The candidate

A primary election would then be held. Only the candidates that get some support from within the commission would be allowed to run. A second round ballot would be held if necessary but to avoid a potentially bruising second round a victory could be obtained earlier with a single 40% vote as long as that person is ahead enough fop the other candidates.

The primary election campaign could take place through June and on July 5th the election held. The symbolism would be of course of great use for the opposition. An eventual second run could be held no later than July 15. And voilá, by August 1 the opposition has a candidate, a program and an electoral structure.

It is my belief that the country is divided enough and that people, no matter what opinion polls say, know where they stand. The campaign from both sides consists in convincing people to go and vote, not for whom to vote. 2-3 months of campaign are enough, and would even look good after months of Chavez constant campaigning.

It is really not that difficult and does not require as much money as Chavez will require. It allows for the opposition to forget about the CNE, leaving it to Sumate to deal with its treachery. And then the candidate can take over and make his personal case to the country and to the world as to how Chavez and his minions cheat. We know how that ended in Peru. And after 2002, we know that we could also pull an effective orange revolution.

But we also know that it requires political will, that it requires for political parties such as AD to rise about selfish interests. And this does not seem to be taking place. It seems that AD is prey to its belief that they know lead the “abstention movement”. It seems that PJ is more worried about its internecine warfare than the good of the country. It seems that the other guys are not even a cackle anymore, and yet some still pretend to roost high.

And also it seems that Chavez campaign will be dirtier and more cynical than what anyone had imagined.

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Details appear in several posts that can be tracked from the “Introduction” post here.

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